E-newsletter from Mark and Ben Cullen

"A picture is worth a thousand words...and a video is worth a thousand pictures!" - Ankala V Subbarao

As "garden communicators", we are constantly challenging ourselves to find new ways to get the message out and spread the good word about gardening - spend five minutes with either of us and you will find that we have no problem communicating the old fashion way, by talking. 

In fact, we can be certain that there are people in our lives who wish at times that we would shut up.

Thankfully, the number of options available to us continue to expand. In addition to our continued work in traditional media, which we are partial to (see "What We've Been Talking About"), you will notice that we are becoming even more active across social media- most recently Instagram (@markcullengardening) in addition to Facebook (Mark Cullen, Canadas Gardening Guru), Twitter (@MarkCullen4) and YouTube (markcullengardening).

The most exciting thing that online holds for us is the ability to integrate video - virtual "show and tell". To elevate our online videos, last year we launched our "How-To" series of short clips which are produced in such a way that we think they are entertaining and informative to watch. We hope that they can captivate you for at least a minute in amongst everything else online.

Now we are even more excited to announce their return - the second iteration of our "How-To" series. Take a look below - they will be hosted across all our social media channels, but easiest to find in future at our YouTube channel.

Enjoy and - most importantly - we hope you learn a thing or two.

Ben and Mark

Summer Lawn Maintenance - This one is very timely! Check it out!


How to Buy Plants at the Garden Center - Good thing to consider now that garden centers are starting to discount their seasonal plant material.



How to Build a Living Fence - Something you can do with the discounted plant material from the garden center!

How to Build an Insect Hotel - A year-round project to benefit the diversity of life in your yard



If you aren't already drowning in tomatoes, peppers, beans and zucchini, you're probably starting to harvest potatoes, onion and garlic. Here are some tips for the latter:

"New potatoes" can be harvested now (10 weeks after planting). We love potatoes so much that we are always eager for the first crop. 

Stick your fingers into the soil and feel around for the tubers...be careful plucking them out, not to damage the roots too much because they are still feeding the main crop, which you will harvest after the above-ground part of the plant dies off and before first frost.  

Check this early crop for scab - if it is starting to form, you might as well go ahead and harvest the whole row. Leaving them in the ground might increase yield but will leave you with a lesser-quality crop. Scab is a wart-like patch on the skin which is more unsightly than anything (you can still eat the potato), and is avoided by watering adequately in the first 2-6 weeks of development and not having too much moisture from 8 weeks-onwards. 

We like to dig our potatoes with a fork to minimize damage, and store them in a dark, dry and warm place (like the potting shed) for a week before moving them to a dark, moderately humid and cool place for the winter (like the basement or cellar).

Onions are also ready for harvest about now, when their stems start to fall over. Cure onions by spreading them in a single layer on a dry surface (like the table in the potting shed), and let them dry for two or three weeks until the neck is dry and the outer skin is papery. Cut off the tops after they have cured, put them in a basket (any container with airflow) and into the cellar.

Garlic is ready to harvest when the tops go yellow and start to fall over. Generally it is better to dig garlic than to pull, to avoid wrecking the bulb. Garlic needs to be cured like onions, in a warm dry place with good air circulation, for two weeks. The crown should be hard and the wrapper dry and papery when finished curing.

Remove any shoots and the tops of the garlic for storage, and store them in a cool, dark, dry place. Unlike potatoes, garlic does not tolerate any moisture so avoid the basement if it is a bit damp and avoid the fridge!

In another 3-4 weeks you can begin the fall-planting for garlic. Check out our How-To Plant Garlic video.
If you are finding that you are overwhelmed with the amount of produce you have on your hands, don't fret!

Thankfully there are plenty of options once your friends and family have told you they can't look at another one of your tomatoes. 

Plant a Row, Grow a Row ( www.growarow.org ) is a national effort to get home-grown produce into food banks and put to good use, look up a drop-off in your community. 

If the food bank in your community isn't accepting produce (some don't), consider selling your produce through an online service like Seed Voyage ( www.seedvoyage.com ). Seed Voyage allows you to market your home grown produce to local eaters and takes care of all the payment, so you don't have to worry about exchanging cash or even meeting in person.


Divide your bearded iris now by digging up the iris one clump at a time using a fork or shovel and remove excess dirt from the roots. Break off and separate the larger fans and save them for re-planting. Throw away rhizomes which are squishy and limp as they may be diseased (avoid putting them in the compost as they could harbour disease). 

Remove the spent foliage and older leaves before replanting, then dig the hole where you want them. Put a small mound in the middle of the hole, and place the rhizome on top of it. Fill the hole in around the rhizome with the top soil and a mix of fresh compost. The holes should be 4-6" apart (10-15 cm), and the fans should be pointing in the same direction. Water deeply to encourage healthy root growth.

Start new grass seed now
as the season starts to get cooler again. 

We always recommend a quality grass seed and fertilizer, such as CIL Iron+.  


On Monday, we had the opportunity to visit Antonio Valente (Instagram @antoniovalenteflowers) at his half-acre cut flower farm in Thornhill, Ontario.

Antonio is a part of a "growing" trend towards small-scale, organic production of cut flowers and was kind enough to show us around his operation. We enjoyed learning about the interesting varieties he's been growing and feasting on the homemade Italian desserts as provided by his sister Rita and their Mom (delicious!).

Click here to view more photos from our tour.


In our weekly Toronto Star column we talked about some of the latest efforts to get kids outside and back into nature, through Come Alive Outside.

and half-time show in the garden, how to get the most from the second half of the season.


In our August newsletter, we talked about the new Mark's Choice Nut Gatherer.
Many of you wrote to ask 'how big is it'?  'How many black walnuts will it hold?"

To answer your questions, we shot a short video.  We hope you enjoy it.


The Highway of Heroes, Living Tribute is a cause that is very near to our hearts - Mark is, after all, one of the founding chairs. 

117,000 trees along the Highway of Heroes to honour Canada's fallen, and additional 2,000,000 trees for every Canadian who has volunteered in times of war.

Currently the
 Highway of Heroes Living Tribute is looking for a Manager of Fundraising and Government Relations. This could be a great opportunity for someone with professional experience in the fundraising world. We are putting this out there because we are passionate about the cause and think it would be the perfect opportunity for the right person.  More info here.